Vermijo streetscape rendering

Even before the U.S. Olympic Museum began to rise, city planners eyed Vermijo Street as an area that could be much more than it is.

The 2016 Experience Downtown Master Plan envisioned Vermijo as a “signature street” that could be a walkable thoroughfare lined with shops, businesses and mixed-use developments.

Tejon Street between St. Vrain Street and Moreno Avenue currently is the city’s best example of a signature street, especially around the intersection with Pikes Peak Avenue. Tejon and Pikes Peak set a precedent for the character of downtown Colorado Springs, the plan states.

With the development of the U.S. Olympic Museum and plans for southwest downtown, Vermijo was primed to become a signature street from the museum to Weber Street. Its potential was identified in the 2016 master plan.

Now the city has developed a more specific plan for a $40 million redevelopment of Vermijo that will make it pedestrian- and auto-friendly while offering the opportunity to host festivals and plaza-type events.

The plan also includes construction of a modern pedestrian bridge that will connect America the Beautiful Park with downtown Colorado Springs. Ryan Phipps, senior engineer with the City Engineering Division, and Kathleen Krager, manager of the Traffic Engineering Division, presented the plan to City Council on Dec. 10.

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“Vermijo was identified as a future ‘signature street’ for our city years ago, and it’s exciting to actually have the renderings that can help us visualize just how transformative this project will be for southwest downtown,” Phipps said. “By combining low-impact development, smart technologies, effective stormwater management and an overall design that will draw people to the area, this is truly the type of project we’re seeing in best-in-class cities nationwide.”

Elements of a signature street include pedestrian gathering spaces, enhanced hardscape features, landscaping, space-saving on-street parking and distinguished, consistent signage.

“This is truly the type of project we’re seeing in best-in-class cities nationwide.”
—Ryan Phipps

Other features of the plan include ADA- and bike-friendly accommodations on the pedestrian bridge connecting downtown to America the Beautiful Park; a curbless design making the street appropriate for festivals and events while remaining accessible; pre-run power for on-street activation; and thoughtful planting using the small-leaved and disease-resistant Honey Locust tree.

The streetscape will feature an innovative underground stormwater filtering system which will collect and cleanse runoff by using natural materials created by the trees lining the street. Once cleaned by this natural and sustainable system, the water will collect in an underground basin before flowing to Fountain Creek.

Extensive research into best practices in other major cities across the country informed the design and engineering of the project.

“What we ultimately chose to do with Vermijo was to embrace a timeless design that is flexible enough to make this street sustainable for the next 50 or 100 years,” Phipps said. “While providing a very classic aesthetic, it will also be equipped to host temporary features and displays that can easily be updated or refreshed. In addition, we will set it up to be ready for evolving smart technologies, from smart street lights to smart parking, kiosks and sensor-driven irrigation.”

Funding for the project will come from multiple sources to include the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, Regional Tourism Act funding granted by the City for Champions application, Colorado Springs Utilities and the Business Improvement District, which was established in 2017.

The project is expected to be completed in the first half of 2020.

Note: Learn more about the Vermijo Street project in the Dec. 21 edition of the Business Journal.